Satellite communications specialist Inmarsat and telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom are poised for the European Aviation Network (EAN) inflight-connectivity service to go live with launch customer British Airways (BA), after an initial test phase planned for December.

EAN is an integrated satellite and air-to-ground network for aviation connectivity. While US carriers have had access to a reliable air-to-ground (A2G) network for a while now, A2G was not previously an option in Europe. Inmarsat believes this technology shift could make European inflight Wi-Fi more affordable and commonplace.

International Airlines Group is EAN’s first customer and the group’s UK airline, British Airways, will be the EAN launch operator.

Speaking at the Accelerate Aviation conference in London on Nov. 14, Inmarsat Aviation VP-sales for Europe Isabelle Bachelier-Journel said: “EAN will launch on short-haul with BA very shortly now. We will launch the test phase starting next month and the target is to complete roll out by summer 2019.”

Deutsche Telekom VP-inflight services and connectivity David Fox said 300 base stations have already been set up across Europe, with more to come.

He added that North Sea coverage is also in the pipeline. “We are not there yet. It will probably be done by 2020. We will finally create availability for passengers flying from the UK to Scandinavia, so they will be seamlessly connected all the way through,” he said.

Fox acknowledged that LCC connectivity take-up has been slow in Europe, but he is confident they will come on board. “For low-cost carriers, it’s not a question of if they want to add connectivity to their aircraft, it’s a question of when,” he said.

Victoria Moores